Before enrolling at UW-Whitewater as a 27-year-old non-traditional student in 2008, Damon Judah was spending cold winter nights in his car, homeless.
“Those were difficult years,” Judah said. “I was living paycheck to paycheck and not loving any job. I’ve been homeless and had to sleep in a car during winter, which taught me not complain about petty things in life.”
Judah, who held numerous jobs including landscaping and factory work, said this experience was enough to push him back to school, along with his longing for a higher education.
Originally raised in Beloit, Judah is a full-time student living in Whitewater. Judah expects to graduate in May 2014, with a double-major in Accounting and Information Technology, from the College of Business and Economics. In addition to his school work, he manages to hold down three part-time jobs, both on and off campus.
Socially, you may see Judah playing or officiating intramural basketball, attending movies, or listening to comedians on campus. However, Judah said it is his deep faith which gives him the strength to carry on.
“My strength and determination come from Jesus Christ,” Judah said. “Who am I to throw away what God has given me?”
Regarding college, Judah said, “I do think my age has been an asset for me; I came back to college with a more mature mindset and focus, which I didn’t have when I was 18.”
Judah said now he is more patient and attempts to think things through more thoroughly, acknowledging the fact that he doesn’t know everything.
Choton Basu, who is an associate professor of Information Technology and Business Education, said networking is one of Judah’s greatest assets.
“Damon has great curiosity,” Basu said. “He seeks knowledge by getting different points-of-view from students and faculty alike.”
Basu said Judah hung around after every class, always asking questions and wanting more information.
“People just don’t realize how multi-layered Damon is,” Basu said. “If you make a judgment about him based only upon what you see, you’ve missed the depth of this man.”
Judah said earning his degree at UW-Whitewater has been crucial in helping him achieve his goals.
While Judah said he recognizes the difficult decisions and sacrifices non-traditional students must make, he said it’s sometimes difficult to see younger students make poor decisions.
“A lot of younger students live for the temporary satisfactions of life without seeing the bigger picture,” Judah said. “It’s horribly amazing to me, how many people feel the need to drink alcohol, like there is nothing better to do with one’s spare time.”
If Judah could talk to his 18-year-old self, he said he would warn himself of the dangers of engaging in many unthought-out plans and not standing committed to what he had chosen to take on.
“Life lived as though all there is to life is what we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses – is meaningless,” Judah said. “For some odd reason, the younger generation has denounced simplicity.”
According to Professor Basu, Judah executes a “quiet confidence.”
“He’s figured out that it’s in the simplicity of forming relationships, by learning from other people, and incorporating this information into his own life, helps him to make good decisions,” Basu said.
By doing so, Basu said Damon gives all students an example to follow.
“Damon opens himself up for inputs … he knows where he needs to be next [which is] a great lesson for people to learn,” Basu said.